Dark velvet curtains clung across the lofty space my family slept in. Dispersed on the floor were hardware tools and clothing items not properly put away in the dresser. In the center of the room sank my body, where my childhood naivety was corrupted. My raw body became a black hole where sin, shame, and unconsciousness gravitated and consumed me wholly.
I had woken up expecting to attend school like any other day. Every day, except that one morning, my eyes would awaken joyfully, slowly unsealing themselves as the remnants of the sandman’s slumber were brushed away. What felt like a heavy bear claw pushed down onto my chest. I did not move. My mother was not in the room that morning, she was elsewhere attending to the need of an ill newborn, and her boyfriend at the time was to look after me. My perpetrator’s incentives were foreign to my thoughts; I did not believe I would be humiliated and sexually targeted as an eight-year-old.
My husky boyish body was held in the arms of a beast. One arm tightening around my ribs and the other masking my mouth to prevent any vocalization. His hands felt like coarse sandpaper rubbing against my smooth body. I felt numb wherever he touched me, and eventually my body gave in to a paralysis. My ears were pierced with echoes of threats, and hot tears ebbed like a spring over my face. I wanted to transcend beyond my body and wander distantly in order to obliterate the actions taking place. I wanted to close my eyes and awaken from the nightmares, but the beast was breathing by my side. I became an experiment, a play toy, and a drone in the aftermath of the assault.
The sexual act in itself did not corrupt my body and spirit, rather it was the tyranny, the wanting to humiliate me. My perception as a person was shattered, my heart tainted, and my trust violated as my rapist digitally penetrated orifices, utilized erect hardware tools, and lastly forced himself within. The morning I was raped, I was lost, and replaced with an anonymous entity.
For the next decade, I felt flat. I became frustrated, wanting to feel human again, often searching for myself in the natural environment as I ran endlessly through country roads and scaled barren mountains. My entire perception of myself did not correlate positively. I had excelled in academics in my childhood, and continued until my sophomore year in high school, when the memories I had suppressed resurfaced. I had to acknowledge that within my bruised heart rotted the corpse of the child left behind, and I had to strive to live once again. The last three years in high school were spent distantly wandering in thought and not collecting my attention in academia. My anxiety to feel human became so intense that it evolved into thoughts of suicide. The constant reminder that I was emotionally marred had summarized who I was as a person, took me captive, and trained me to give up. The sexual assault conditioned me to believe I was a mere boy without a voice, vulnerable, and incapable of growth.
I gave up school, and wanted to live in the “real world.” My academic counselor, Susan Snyder, noticed excessive absences under my name, and wanted to talk with me. It was my second semester of my senior year in high school, and I had not attended for over a month. Knowing I was raped was shameful and the darkest secret I hid in my Pandora’s box. I had a few therapy sessions on campus with Serena, who recommended counseling at the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center. Hearing those words uttered together, rape crisis center, made me uncomfortable. I still refused to see myself as a victim, and hoped to never step foot inside the center. One day, though, while promenading downtown, I built courage to step inside and finally accept it all.
Working with the Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center has provided a place for solace for my still-healing heart. It’s only been less than a year since I’ve been in therapy, and I feel like I’m gaining greater control of my life. Kay, my therapist at the center, constantly instills the essence of life in me, and reminds me the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I have shared with Kay that I am tired of being idle and anonymous. I want to become “productive” and become a message of hope for other rape survivors with the voice I’ve gained. I, too, will use the voice gained to empower my self and propel me where I want to be in this life.
Though having been raped has had a negative impact on my life, it also has been a catalyst to grow as a person and never forget the strength of the human spirit. I’m not living my days being molded by shame anymore, rather hoping for the best and gaining my sense of naivety, which makes life a whole lot easier. I’m now awake, smiling, and left with a few scars reminding me of who I am today.
The Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center is located at 433 East Canon Perdido Street, and the 24-hour hotline is 564-3696.